APS March Meeting 2022
by QuTech blog editors
With the first hybrid APS March meeting in 2022 concluded, we asked a few of the attendants to share their experiences and fun stories.
This year’s March Meeting felt like the first time cows who get outside after having been locked up for the winter. People almost happily jumped around after the past two-year’s COVID-stables, where we were fed with videocalls in front of a computer screen and written chatting. Talking to other researchers has never been so easy, since everyone was willing to chat with a physically-present counterpart. Some things remains the same, though: even in the Windy City, I was again blown away by the sheer number of talks (you can tell I haven’t calibrated my humour in the past two years). Looking forward to next conference already!
The (scientific) world woke up
For a second, we thought that we were still jetlagged. We blinked and looked again. It was still true. It was Sunday morning, 09h30 and my colleagues and I went for a walk of Chicago to get a feeling of the city before the APS March Meeting would start. We were gazing at the river. The water was bright green*.
And I think that was a harbinger of what the week would bring: intriguing, vibrant and inspiring events. After two years of isolation and virtuality, it felt like people were extra eager to present their latest results. The opportunity to have actual in-person discussions felt both super luxurious and super necessary. And the conversations with people, both in a more serious setting during the day and in a more relaxed setting during dinner and drinks, felt extra valuable. It was as, after two years, a surprise box had been opened and I tried to absorb all the science and all the social as a sponge. What an explosion of inspiration!
(*They color it green for St. Patrick’s day)
Due to different reasons I decided to stay here in Delft. However, it turns out attending the hybrid meeting is a different experience. Unlike last year, only the invited talks were streamed and not the rest. Also, not all talks had their recordings and thus I could not feel like attending a conference at all.
The best part was probably watching the invited talks together with our group members, where we sit down in a meeting room and really discuss the new approaches and ideas (with some drinks :)). Although in hindsight, APS did send us an e-mail to ask: “all contributed session presenters who have yet to upload a video to do so now” as a remedy. I still feel that the essence of a conference is really not just watching some talks, but it’s about learning new ideas and chatting with experts from other field in person, where creativity is sparked.
David Van Driel
The 2022 March meeting marked the first physical conference of my PhD. Most of my contact with other scientists was digital since starting January 2020. I had one very scientific and personal encounter during the March meeting I want to share with you. I was to present an abstract on the second last day of the conference. A colleague had shared a talk with me that was given two days earlier. It was basically an exact twin of mine, with only minor differences. The live talk had unfortunately already been given, so I rewatched the recording three times (from my hotel couch). I had a short deliberation on whether I would discuss physics with the presenter or keep my cards close to my chest. In Dutch we have a term called ‘concullega’ which is a contraction of competitor and colleague. During my session I saw someone that looked like my concullega walk in and sit down at a front-ish row. Directly after my talk, I was speaking with someone else I knew in the session. Then, I saw my concullega carefully walk up to us. I saw her mentally prepare and finally make her move.
“Hi I’m … ”
‘I know exactly who you are, I watched your talk three times!’
‘Yes, we have a lot to discuss, don’t we?’
“I guess we do yes, haha”
We discussed for hours the day after and had dinner and drinks with her group and mine. I proposed that we could publish our comparable results back-to-back, in stead of trying to scoop each other after the conference. This was received with much enthusiasm and we’re currently looking into it. Physically meeting people is a delight, it really shows you how small the scientific world can be!
Just like pretty much everyone else, attending the first hybrid March Meeting in Chicago for me was a mixed bag of technical hiccups and wonderful encounters. Online recordings are a great remedy against the infamous parallel-session FOMO in days bygone – albeit only when the speaker managed to upload it in time and spoke in a voice loud enough to overcome the noise in the gigantic conference hall. Q&A’s appear to be fewer than the past in the sessions I attended, possibly because a larger proportion of senior researchers, the usual intrepid question askers, chose to stay home. Although it was probably thanks to streaming that we got to hear from such esteemed figures as Emmanuel Rashba, in the end it was the nights of that week that made the most impression on me. I had long walks with old friends along the stunningly turquoise Lake Michigan. We made new friends at dinner tables and pubs and waved goodbye to each other talking about hosting a colloquium together soon. What was your experience? We’d love to hear them below in the comment section.